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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of task type and domain expertise on information searching behaviours in a full text digital library Natalya, Lebedeva


The purpose of this study is to provide insights into human information searching (IS) behaviour in a full text digital library. In this study, participants searched for historical information in a digital library. My first research interest was to explore IS behaviour in relation to three search tasks of different types: factual (a search for a definite answer like a name, date, location); exploratory (a search for information to broaden knowledge on a topic); interpretive (a search for information to configure an answer) participants attempted to accomplish. My second research interest was to examine the impact of participants’ domain expertise on their IS behaviours. Data was collected through online questionnaires, search interaction transaction logs and search session screen captures. I used established information seeking models as a framework for understanding the process of how people search for information in electronic environments. I adapted the coding scheme of lead researchers in the field to analyze the querying, examining results and extracting information on book pages. I examined the patterns in the search behaviours, and then compared the search interactions by task type and according to participants’ expertise (expert group vs non-expert group) to see if there was a difference. In terms of task types, the difference was in the number of query moves and the duration of querying, examining search result pages (SRP) and time spent on book pages. These findings may have been related to the task complexity and perceived difficulty, but also to how familiar searchers were with the system and how they thought the system worked (i.e. mental model). As for the impact of domain expertise, non-experts spent significantly more time on book pages in the factual task, completed more moves in the interpretive task and opened more SRPs and books. These may have occurred because of experts’ previous experience with questions on the topic and thus being able to extract information more efficiently. It is very important to have information systems that facilitate IS by supporting natural IS behaviour. My findings could well have implications for systems design and better understanding how searchers interact with DL systems.

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